Ask the Trainer | Halloween safety tips for the pups
October 15, 2013
Our family recently adopted a dog from the animal shelter who we've named Oscar. Our daughters, ages 6 and 8, want to dress Oscar up and take him Trick-or-Treating this year. He seems to be a pretty easy-going dog, but I don't know what he's going to do with all the kids around. Do you think this is a good idea?
Dear Taylor Family,
I'm not surprised to hear that two little girls want to dress up their dog! I have numerous photos of my long-suffering Lab, Ella, dressed up like a princess.
Obviously, wearing clothes in not a natural dog behavior, so you'll need to be sure he seems comfortable when they put his costume on.
Try to pick a simple one for this first outing and practice in advance of Halloween. Put it on, feed him really good treats, and take it off. Do this each day, gradually leaving it on for longer periods of time. Over time he will come to associate the costume with great treats.
The next thing to consider is how Oscar will do on the crowded, dark streets with lots of little ghosts and goblins around. Start by having your daughters dress up in their costumes and observe how he responds.
If he seems even a little nervous, you need to get the treats out again and have the girls feed him. Once he has adapted to them, invite a couple of their friends over (in costume, of course) and repeat the process.
Keep Oscar on a leash when the kids come over just to keep everyone safe. If he seems unfazed by the costumes, then he is probably going to be fine on Halloween, but if he seems nervous I'd leave him home.
If you do take him, have a back-up plan just in case he gets freaked out by something. If this does happen, put him in the car for the remainder of the evening. Also, I would recommend fitting him with a front clip harness and clipping his leash to the harness and to his collar. This will ensure that he can't escape and run away in the dark if he gets scared.
Whether he goes with you or not, the issue of candy lying around is the biggest concern. Common ingredients found in Trick-or-Treat bags are toxic to dogs:
1. CHOCOLATE: Any kind of chocolate is toxic and the darker the chocolate the more dangerous it is. Depending on the type and amount ingested, symptoms may include vomiting, increased thirst, abdominal discomfort, severe agitation, muscle tremors, irregular heart rhythm, high body temperature, seizures and death.
2. RAISINS AND GRAPES: This lesser known toxin can cause kidney failure. Some dogs can eat these without harm, while others develop life-threatening symptoms, so the safest thing is not to allow your dog to have them. Symptoms usually present within 12 hours, so it's best to call your veterinarian immediately.
If you decide to take Oscar out for Halloween, just be sure he has fun and stays safe.
Carla Brown, CPDT is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of The Savvy Dog Training and Education Center in Truckee. If you have a pet topic/issue you would like to see covered in the Ask the Trainer column, please email her at email@example.com.